The most striking claims in the CFTC's lawsuit against Binance
Published in Business News
The top U.S. derivatives regulator’s lawsuit against crypto giant Binance Holdings Ltd. and Chief Executive Officer Changpeng Zhao hammers at the company’s alleged concealment of rules violations in a breakneck pursuit of growth.
As the Commodity Futures Trading Commission goes after the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange — in the wake of FTX’s collapse and amid a banking crisis in which crypto figures — here are some of the most striking allegations and details from its suit, which also includes claims of willfully ignoring potential criminal activity.
Representatives of Binance and Zhao didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The allegations, in short:
Since the launch of its platform in 2017, Binance has taken a calculated, phased approach to increase its United States presence despite publicly stating its purported intent to “block” or “restrict” customers located in the United States from accessing its platform.
The CFTC claims Binance eagerly pursued U.S. customers despite claiming otherwise and says the exchange’s own internal emails and chats show that its compliance efforts “have been a sham,” as the CFTC’s Gretchen Lowe said in a statement.
According to the agency, Binance instructed U.S. customers to use VPNs — virtual private networks, which hide a computer’s identity — to obscure their locations and trade on the exchange without submitting proof of identity and location.
At least as early as April 2019, Binance published a guide on the “Binance Academy” section of its website titled “A Beginner’s Guide to VPNs.” Binance’s VPN guide explained to Binance customers that “[i]f you want to be private about the websites you visit – and your location – you should use a VPN.” Binance’s VPN guide also hints: “you might want to use a VPN to unlock sites that are restricted in your country.”
The CFTC says in the suit that Binance’s efforts to mask its customers — and juice its growth — worked all too well.
“By May 2021, Binance’s monthly revenue earned from derivatives transactions increased to $1.14 billion,” the regulator says. It cites Samuel Lim, Binance’s former chief compliance officer, as aiding the alleged violations. It says putting “commercial success over compliance with U.S. law” was far from a mere consequence of its growth, but rather, “as Lim paraphrased Zhao’s position on the matter, a ‘biz decision.’ ”
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